The future appears uncertain for Afghanistan following its takeover by the Taliban as US-led forces withdrew from the country after 20 years of occupation. As other nations continue to evacuate their citizens, the Central Asian country has been struck by political and humanitarian crises.
When It Rains, It Pours: UK Defence Ministry Reportedly Allows Another Afghan Data Breach
11:45 GMT 23.09.2021 (Updated: 12:59 GMT 23.09.2021)
The last breach left the email addresses, names, and profile pictures of some of the Afghans who sought relocation to the UK available for download by a broad spectrum of people. It is unclear if the list was leaked to a wider audience or to the new Taliban* authorities in Afghanistan.
A new data breach has taken place at the UK Ministry of Defence involving the information of 55 Afghans seeking relocation, the BBC has reported. According to the broadcaster, the ministry emailed a group of Afghans saying it was unable to reach them and asking to update defence officials about their contact info.
Yet, the said email reportedly included the email addresses and names of some 55 Afghans, which could be seen by all recipients creating a potential for leaks and possibly exposing the affected people to danger. The Ministry of Defence has already contacted the Afghans in question to advise them on managing these potential risks, the British broadcaster claimed.
Two Data Breaches in a Row?
The reports of the new data leak come on the heels of the UK government admitting to inadvertently leaking the email addresses, names, and profile pictures of around 250 Afghans seeking to relocate from Afghanistan after the Taliban came to power there. The data was available to be viewed and copied by all recipients of a letter sent by the team overseeing the work of the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP). All of the recipients were later asked to delete the email and compromised personal data.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace labelled the mishap an "unacceptable breach" and criticised what he called "an unacceptable level of service". The minister also announced on 21 September that an investigation had been launched into the breach and that one official had already been suspended in connection with the case.
These leaks are not the first time a piece of sensitive information from the Ministry of Defence has been leaked by mistake. In June 2021, a report emerged that a bundle of sensitive British defence documents regarding the provocative mission of the HMS Defender near the shores of the Crimean was found abandoned at a bus stop. Its contents were later made public by the media, revealing that London deliberately sent its warship through the waters of the Crimea, understanding that Moscow deems them as Russian territory and would strongly object to the act.
According to one media report, the documents were forgotten at a bus stop by Angus Lapsley - director-general at the MoD responsible for defence policy on NATO and the Euro-Atlantic area. His security clearance has since been suspended and the man was transferred to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FDCO).
*The Taliban is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia and many other countries.